Genoa’s entire wrestling roster can take a bow.
Never before in the school’s history had the Comets’ wrestling program won back-to-back league/conference championships – until last weekend. Genoa posted 161 points to beat runner-up Otsego (138.5) and Woodmore (117) for the Northern Buckeye Conference tournament title at Elmwood.
The championship was Genoa’s third overall and marked the first back-to-back conference titles in program history. The Comets’ other title came in the Suburban Lakes League in 2003. Genoa has also won the Northcoast Holiday Duals and the Napoleon Gold Medal Duals this season.
“It has been a collaborative effort from the coaches and the kids and their families,” Genoa coach Bob Bergman said. “We’re blessed to have kids with a good work ethic and it’s a pleasure to coach them.”
Bergman admitted that, despite being the preseason NBC tournament favorites, defending their title was not a given for the Comets last weekend. Genoa lost NBC regular-season dual matches to Elmwood and Rossford.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year,” Bergman said. “We had some kids get to weight classes where they need to be. Tyler Rozak, a senior (24-10 at 170 pounds), really helped us out, and so did freshman Matt Herrick (195). Without them, a league title would have been hard to come by. The upperclassmen have stepped up. We had injuries, and it took a whole team effort.”
Bergman said winning the NBC tourney title gives the Comets a boost heading into the 15-team Division III sectional tournament Feb. 14-15 at Lake.
“A lot of teams in our league are in our sectional,” Bergman said, “so it’s a good indicator of where the bar’s at and how close we are to it. It teaches us to learn from some of our mistakes we need to get corrected. Otsego has a talented group and it’s going to be a barnburner next weekend.”
Senior 138-pounder Max Reeder played a huge role in Genoa’s path to the conference championship. Reeder (20-2) brought the crowd to its feet in the title match when he pinned Otsego’s Austin Glosser late in the second period. Reeder also won NBC titles at 119 pounds as a freshman and at 132 last season.
“Up to that point (138 pounds) we hadn’t won a finals match yet,” Bergman said. “That was our first victory. There was a big swing between (Otsego) winning and us winning. That was a big momentum killer for the Knights. Max kind of just grabbed the bull by the horns. He’s wrestled about a third of the season (with injuries) and he’s been an absolute trooper. We’ve just been using him when we absolutely need him. Now is the time for him.”
Three other Genoa wrestlers – juniors Tyler Baird at 182 and Jay Nino at 220, and senior heavyweight Cody Buckner – all won NBC titles.
Baird (36-2), who had a sub-.500 record a year ago, “was a treat to watch” en route to the championship, Bergman said. Baird pinned Otsego’s Collin Kitchen in 3:30 in the finals.
“He’s coming into his own,” the coach said. “He’s hands down our most improved. He went from ‘flip a coin’ to untouchable this year. His drill partner is Jay Nino and that’s definitely paying dividends.”
Nino (53-1) has been pretty much untouchable this season. He defended his 220-pound title at the NBC tourney with a pin of Woodmore’s Henry Flores (2:26) in the finals.
“He’s a gamer-type guy,” Bergman said. “The lights are on now and he’s putting in the extra time and working with the coaches and conditioning up. We’re excited here the next couple weeks to watch him roll. He’s salivating at this opportunity.”
Buckner, the fifth-ranked heavyweight in the state, put away Elmwood’s Jack Hagemeyer with a 12-2 decision in the semifinals. He pinned Rossford’s Brandon Vasquez in 1:39 in the finals.
“Cody had a slobberknocker in the semifinals,” Bergman said. “It went the distance, which is unusual for him. He’s having a great year. Two weeks ago he beat the fourth-ranked kid in the state from Dayton Christian, and he dominated (last) weekend.”
Genoa also got second-place finishes from 113-pounder Damian D'Emilio, who is 48-6, Rozak, Nathan Moore (26-4 at 145) and Brandon Bates (44-6 at 132). Freshmen Herrick and Adam Bates (126) both placed fourth.
Genoa will vie for its third straight sectional title next weekend at Lake.
“We just hope we can get as many kids as we can in those top four spots,” Bergman said. “A lot of our guys have the potential to do that, and more. It’s all about individuals now and it doesn’t have to be pretty all the time. Just advance.”